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Sharief keen to contest for Assembly?

By A. Jayaram

BANGALORE, FEB. 21. The Bangalore North Lok Sabha constituency is the pocket borough of the former Railway Minister, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, and the Congress should not look for any other candidate, his supporters say.

Mr. Sharief, who was a member of the dissolved Lok Sabha from the same constituency, has been elected from there for a record number of seven times. The former Congress Seva Dal volunteer from Chitradurga and one time follower of S. Nijalingappa was first elected from there in 1977. In 1971, he won from the Kanakapura Lok Sabha constituency defeating Nijalingappa's son-in-law, M.V. Rajashekaran, now a member of the Rajya Sabha.

In 1996, the then Congress President and Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, denied him the ticket on the ground that a CBI case had been booked against him (hawala case).

The Congress lost the election from Bangalore North: the Janata Dal candidate, C. Narayanaswamy, won the election defeating the Congress substitute for Mr. Jaffer Sharief, Obeidullah Sharief.

This time, even as the KPCC is still receiving applications for the party ticket for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Mr. Sharief's supporters have opened an election office on Cunningham Road here. Posters and huge banners showing Mr. Sharief alongside the pictures of the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, and others are everywhere.

Among the Opposition stalwarts Mr. Sharief has defeated in Bangalore North are the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, and Syed Shahbuddin.

However, though Mr. Sharief's election office has been opened, there are reports that he is keen on contesting the Assembly election from the Jayamahal constituency in Bangalore and enter State politics for the first time. The Jayamahal seat is part of the Bangalore North Lok Sabha seat. It is currently represented by the former Minister, R. Roshan Baig, a protégé of Mr. Sharief, who is under a cloud after the Telgi scam broke out.

There are a good number of others eyeing the Jayamahal constituency.

They include the danseuse Nandini Alva, whose husband, late Jeevaraj Alva, won from there once. Dr. Alva's brother, Jayaprakash Alva, too has announced that he would contest from there as the candidate of the Janata Dal (Secular). Jayamahal bids fair to become a key constituency in the coming Assembly elections.

No wonder there are both pocket boroughs and family fiefs in politics. The constituency derives its name from the Jayamahal mansion, belonging to the erstwhile rulers of the Gondal principality in Gujarat known for owning racing cars, who were living in Bangalore.

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